The NY Times Joins Israel in Whitewashing (Yet Another) Scandal

A military scandal has rocked Israel, and The New York Times has been on hand to report developments: A soldier was arrested for killing a wounded and helpless Palestinian; the soldier was under investigation for murder, and some Israelis have protested, insisting that he is a hero.

These were the stories that made headlines in the Times after the murder was caught on video and spread through the Internet, provoking outrage worldwide. The newspaper, it seems, has been on this from the start.

But readers may not suspect that there is much more that the newspaper is withholding. After the early headlines, the Times has gone silent and has failed to report a number of developments connected with the story:

All of these items appeared in media outlets, some of them disseminated widely, such as the downgrade from murder to manslaughter, which made headlines in Israel, the West and the Arab world. In the Times, however, this news became nothing but a whispered conjecture buried in an article last Thursday. Far into her piece, author Isabel Kershner briefly mentioned that prosecutors were “appearing to have backed off from the idea of a murder charge.”

Since then, the Times has had nothing more to say about the scandal, leaving readers with the impression that Israeli officials were swift and firm in their effort to bring justice to bear. As authorities backed off from the murder charge and let the soldier go free, the Times fell silent.

It seems that the newspaper has endeavored to whitewash Israeli actions—spotlighting the first cries of outrage when the video emerged, the arrest of the soldier and the talk of a murder investigation and ignoring news that might expose the reality: nearly unlimited impunity for crimes against Palestinians.

The paper had nothing to say, for instance, about Netanyahu’s change of tone. When the video first emerged, the prime minister said the killing “does not represent the values of the IDF.” Later he spoke to the accused man’s father, assuring him that he personally understood the man’s distress and saying that the family should trust the army to be “professional and fair in its investigation.”

This was reported extensively in Israel, as was the Leahy letter asking Secretary of State John Kerry to investigate a “disturbing number of reports of gross violations of human rights by security forces” in Israel and Egypt. The letter mentions several specific cases of alleged extrajudicial executions by Israeli forces.

Senator Leahy’s signature is of particular importance because his name is on a law that prohibits the United States from providing military aid to security forces that violate human rights with impunity.

Nevertheless, the Times has ignored the appeal by Leahy and 10 other members of Congress, even though the event is eminently newsworthy and the letter led to a sharp exchange between Netanyahu and Leahy.

The newspaper has also overlooked the effect of the incident on Palestinians: the threats against the videographer, the harassment of his family and initial refusals to allow Palestinian participation in conducting the autopsy.

It seems that much of the news touching on this latest Israeli scandal is unfit to print in the Times. Readers are not to see evidence that the first official reaction to the disturbing video was little more than damage control, an attempt to show the world that Israel does not condone such crimes. The Times, as usual, has fallen into line, a willing partner in the official effort to exonerate Israel of its crimes.

Barbara Erickson

 

International Outrage at Israeli Killing Spree Gets no Notice in The NY Times

 

The New York Times takes us to the West Bank village of Sa’ir today, visiting the families of youthful Palestinians shot down by Israeli troops, witnessing their grief and providing a glimpse of life under military rule. But missing from this seemingly sympathetic piece is the major story here: Israel stands accused of summarily executing many of these young men without trial.

These charges made headlines recently when Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom called for an investigation into Israel’s spate of killings. Her words set off a diplomatic row between the two countries and prompted heavy coverage in Israeli and international media, but the Times gave the story nothing but a passing nod, posting a few fleeting wire service accounts online.

The charges have come from other respected sources as well. Last week Israeli journalist Gideon Levy published an article headlined “Yes, Israel Is Executing Palestinians Without Trial.” And earlier this month the organization Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor released a report titled “100 Days of Brutal Israeli Intimidation and Extrajudicial Executions.”

[Levy, it should be noted, has been awarded this year’s Olof Palme Prize and cited for his “passionate search for truth and a fearless faith in the victory of reason in a region infested by prejudice and violence, propaganda and disinformation.”]

Steven Erlanger, the author of today’s piece, most certainly knew about the firestorm surrounding Wallstrom’s comments, the Levy article and damning reports by organizations such as Euro-Med, but his story confines criticism of Israel to one single source: the Palestinians. Readers can thus dismiss their words as the kind of griping one would expect from an adversary.

On the other hand, he takes Israeli official statements as fact. Thus Erlanger writes that a young Palestinian, Moyyad Jabarin, was killed “after trying to stab a soldier.” There is no acknowledgement of contrary reports from Palestinian media outlets, which cite eyewitness claims that he had “been executed” and was left to bleed to death.

He also describes the recent spate of violence as “near daily attacks by knife, vehicle and gunfire.” Thus he manages to present the claims of security forces as fact, when they are actually nothing more than efforts to explain why so many Palestinians have died at their hands. A judicious reporter would have noted that this is just one side of the story, that they are allegations, not proven realities.

Readers should have been told that the Euro-Med report directly contradicts these official claims. “Proven Palestinian attacks are relatively small in number,” it states, while the Israeli military has been arresting, harassing and executing Palestinians to an “excessive and disproportionate” degree. “As such,” Euro-Med writes, “the behavior of the Israeli military constitutes violations of international law.”

Erlanger reports on the constricting grip of the occupation, citing the roadblocks, the humiliations and the “circuitous route” needed to reach the village on the day of Jabarin’s funeral. But ultimately he shields Israel here, allowing a glimpse at the suffering imposed by the occupation but ignoring the mounting evidence and charges of extrajudicial killings.

He gives us a peek at Palestinian grief, but he refuses to look at the crimes taking place right now at checkpoints and demonstrations. Courageous Israelis like Gideon Levy, rights monitoring groups within Israel and without and now European diplomats are trying to get our attention, but the Times steadfastly looks the other way, determined to hide the full truth from public view.

Barbara Erickson

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Deceit and Obfuscation: How The NY Times Shields Israel

As scores of Palestinians have died at the hands of Israeli forces over the past three months, The New York Times has endeavored to hide the full story of this bloodbath, emphasizing Israeli losses, ignoring the majority of Palestinian deaths, and promoting a narrative that shields trigger-happy troops and obscures facts to the point of deceit.

Thus, a recent story about deadly attacks in Tel Aviv tells us that “at least 20” Israelis have been killed since Oct. 1 and about 130 Palestinians, “up to two-thirds of them while carrying out attacks, or attempting to attack Israelis, according to the police. Others have been killed in clashes with the Israeli security forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and along Israel’s border with Gaza.”

In other words, the Times is saying that Israeli troops were justified in these killings because they were trying to repel deadly attacks or responding to “clashes” with the army or police. This is the message we are to hear, and readers are unlikely to notice that its source is none other than those responsible for a significant number of Palestinian deaths—the Israeli police.

The Times betrays its claim of neutrality by ignoring other sources. Nothing is said of reports by alternative media and human rights groups that accuse Israeli forces of carrying out extrajudicial executions and killing Palestinians who pose no possible threat to security forces or civilians. Likewise, nothing is said of those victims who were taking no part in demonstrations but were merely bystanders or passers-by when they were killed.

The Times, omitting contrary evidence, thus leaves readers with the impression that all of the Palestinian dead were killed as they participated in acts of violence.

At the same time the Times has been quick to name Israeli casualties but has provided identities for only a fraction of the Palestinians. Virtually every Israeli victim has been identified in stories by Times reporters, while only some 34 Palestinians out of more than 130 were mentioned by name. (Some, however, may have been identified in wire services reports that appear briefly online.)

This tally was based on a search of Times stories out of its Jerusalem bureau, using a published list of those killed since Oct. 1. It shows a grossly lopsided preference for Israeli victims over Palestinians, with the names of more than 100 victims omitted from news reports.

Moreover, in the single instance when an Israeli victim was unnamed, the Times apologized, saying the man “was not immediately identified” but was said to be 45 years old and the father of seven.

By contrast, the Times often failed to report Palestinian deaths or it mentioned them almost as afterthoughts, as in this paragraph tucked into a story about dampened Christmas celebrations in the West Bank: “On Thursday, Israeli forces killed three young Palestinian men who they said were trying to carry out attacks. In one episode, a Palestinian tried to ram his vehicle into soldiers near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, lightly wounding a man before he was shot dead.”

The man who was said to have “tried to ram his vehicle into soldiers” had a name. It was Wisam Abu Ghweila; he was from Qalandiya refugee camp, and according to the International Middle East Media Center, there is much more to his story than appeared in the Times.

Abu Ghweila drove his car “too close to a roadblock,” IMEMC reported, and lightly struck a soldier in the process. “Instead of addressing the situation as if it were an accident,” the story continues, “Israeli troops immediately began to empty their guns at the suspect, wounding him severely.”

Eyewitnesses told IMEMC that soldiers shot more than 30 rounds at Abu Ghweila’s car and allowed the injured soldier to receive medical care but left Abu Ghweila unattended as he lay dying in his car.

B’Tselem, an Israeli monitoring group, has reported on other cases in which troops have denied medical care to wounded Palestinians, and alternative media often give accounts of ambulances and medics being denied access to injured victims. The Times, however, makes no mention of these charges, even though some are backed by video evidence.

Israeli media have also reported killings that never appear in the Times. One of these involved a teenage girl who was shot as she sat in the back seat of her family car. The story in Haaretz was titled “The Face of Collateral Damage” and carried this subhead: “Samah Abdallah, 18, from a little-known Palestinian village in the West Bank, was shot dead, either on purpose or by accident—but most assuredly without legitimate reason.”

The Times made no mention of this incident, which took place near Nablus, nor did it report on the death of a mother of four, an inexperienced driver, who was killed in a hail of bullets when she drove slowly through a checkpoint and failed to stop in time. Haaretz, however, told her story under this headline: “A Palestinian Mother of Four, Shot 17 Times for Being a Bad Driver.”

This unfortunate woman, Mahdia Hammad, appears in the Times merely as one of the “about 130” Palestinian killed in the past three months. As in dozens of other cases, the fact of her death at the hands of Israeli security forces received no notice at all, not even a brief paragraph citing officials’ claims that they had “neutralized” a would-be attacker.

These incidents expose the deception inherent in the Times’ claim that Palestinian casualties have occurred only during attacks on Israelis or during “clashes” with security forces.

This self-serving narrative, however, is what Israeli officials want us to believe, and the Times is a willing co-conspirator, showing an appalling indifference to the mounting death toll among Palestinians. It gives credence only to the official reports of police and army spokespersons, the groups most responsible for the bloodshed, turning its back on respected sources and betraying its readers and its own stated values of journalistic ethics.

Barbara Erickson

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Israel: The Willing Executioner

Rasha Oweissi, 23, was a good 30 feet back from a West Bank checkpoint when she was shot and killed, clutching a knife and a bag with a suicide note. Hadeel Awwad, 16, waved a pair of scissors at a Jerusalem security guard and was brought down in a hail of bullets. Ashrakat Qattanani, 16, was killed as she lunged at a woman near a military post.

Their names appear in a New York Times story today, which informs us that some 20 percent of alleged attackers in the past two months have been women, a new and surprising turn of events in the annals of resistance to the Israeli occupation. The article goes on to examine why so many young women in the current Palestinian uprising are “wanting to be killers.”

But the story avoids the obvious question here: How is it that some Palestinians are now courting martyrdom by showing up at checkpoints armed with kitchen knives?

Diaa Hadid and Rami Nazzal skirt this issue throughout the article. There are quotes from Ashrakat’s father who proudly states that his daughter chose to be a martyr, and there is talk of the “romantic” aura of dying for the cause of Palestinian freedom, but nothing is said of the Israeli role here: the summary executions carried out under the thinnest pretexts.

The practice is well known to Palestinians, however, and B’Tselem, the Israeli monitoring group, recently wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanding an end to a “horrific string” of unlawful killings. The letter states, “There can only be one outcome in cases that combine an individual with Arab appearance and a knife: execution on the street.”

As a result, any troubled young person looking for martyrdom knows she has only to hold a knife in hand and walk toward a checkpoint to achieve her goal. Thus, Rasha Oweissi could write her suicide note, confident that the executioners would do their job.

The real story here, so carefully avoided in the Times, is the presence of willing executioners at the checkpoints. This angle, however, does not fit into the narrative of Israeli victimhood, so we find this print headline on the article today: “Palestinian Women Assert Role in Uprising,” as if we are celebrating their emancipation as they take up arms.

But there is little to celebrate. The story reports that most of the would-be female attackers have been killed in the two months since the recent spate of knife and vehicular assaults began and that those who survived have been taken into custody. At the same time, not a single Israeli has died at their hands.

Readers do not learn, however, that several of these women died under disputed circumstances. Hadeel Hashlamoun, 18, was the first victim of the trigger-happy forces in this recent surge in violence. She was shot in late September at a checkpoint in Hebron, and although Israeli officials reported that she had a knife, eyewitnesses dispute this. B’Tselem noted the discrepancies and called her death an extrajudicial execution.

The Times story today, however, asserts that Hadeel “pulled out a knife,” ignoring the controversy surrounding her killing.

Hadid and Nazzal note that B’Tselem called the deaths of Hadeel Awwad and Ashrakat Qattanani “public, summary street executions,” but the full import of the B’Tselem charges are not to be found in the Times.

In fact, the organization asserts that the highest levels of the Israeli government are responsible for the series of unlawful killings. “Your government permits—and encourages—the transformation of police officers, and even of armed civilians, into judges and executioners,” B’Tselem writes in its open letter to Netanyahu.

The letter notes that senior members of the government have incited this violence through “inflammatory statements,” and it continues, “A new pseudo-normative reality has effectively emerged in which a ‘shoot to kill’ approach must always be adopted, no matter the circumstances, even when the suspect no longer presents any danger whatsoever.”

Thus reports show that Ashrakat Qattanani was killed after she had been run over by a car and that Nourhan Awwad was shot at close range after being beaten to the ground by a man wielding a chair. Likewise, Hadeel Hashlamoun stood behind a barrier and several feet from heavily armed officers when a hail of bullets ended her life.

A careful reader of the Times story might have noticed that security forces indulged in overkill, emptying rounds of bullets into the bodies of young women after they were already immobilized and lying wounded on the street, but the article avoids any close look at the behavior of police and soldiers, not to mention the provocative comments of government officials.

Once again the Times averts its gaze from the reality on the ground in Palestine. Here we had an opportunity to look at the tragic intersection of youthful romanticism and Israeli brutality, but the newspaper can provide only one side of this equation: Israel gets a pass, as usual, even when the evidence for its crimes is in plain sight.

Barbara Erickson

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Protecting Israel, Trashing Hebron: More Spin from The NY Times

Today in The New York Times we have a look at Hebron, a blood-drenched city in the West Bank, a community besieged by violent settlers and trigger-happy Israeli forces. In this month alone, some 20 of its Palestinian residents have died at the hands of soldiers and police, their deaths sometimes caught on video that belies official accounts.

But this grim reality is not the focus in the Times. The article by Diaa Hadid and Rami Nazzal strips the full context of the occupation from Hebron and presents it, not as a city struggling to survive under crushing oppression, but as a hotbed of Palestinian radicals, a stronghold of the oft-demonized Hamas.

The story takes us to the funeral of Dania Irsheid (identified as Dania al-Husseini in the Times), a schoolgirl shot at a checkpoint on Sunday. It mentions other deaths in recent days, but it completely avoids the eyewitness accounts and human rights organization findings that show many of these deaths were extrajudicial executions.

Israel has callously refused to release the bodies of most of the 20 victims, and we read that residents feel “particular outrage” over the death of Dania and another girl, Bayan Oseili, 16, killed a week before, both accused of stabbing attacks. The story deftly avoids another compelling reason for this outrage: the fact that both obviously posed no threat and could have been arrested and that video footage in the case of Bayan and eyewitness accounts in the case of Irsheid contradict police claims.

Hadid and Nazzal, however, have nothing to say about these contradictions and writes that residents are angry because the refusal to release the bodies is an “affront to the Muslim tradition of immediate burial and a defilement of their honor.”

This fits neatly into the Times’ attempt to spin the oppression in Hebron into more blaming of the victims, who are described as Hamas followers and culturally conservative. The article opens with a quote from a Hebron resident who applauds knife attacks on Israeli soldiers, and it closes with the same speaker who “was pleased to see the surge in violence turn to Hebron.”

Missing entirely are any comments from nonviolent Hebron activists and the accounts of eyewitnesses who say Israeli forces have planted knives near the bodies of victims. The story also omits some chilling reports of deliberate executions and the statements of human rights groups that raise the charge of extrajudicial killings.

One of the most disturbing accounts describes the death of a young man, Islam Ibeidu, 23, on Wednesday near the Kirya Arba settlement. The news outlet Middle East Eye noted, “According to the quoted eyewitness, Ibeidu was searched by Israeli soldiers by the checkpoint and released, before orders were given to execute him.”

One witness tweeted: “I saw everything. I saw soldiers loading the guns. He had his arms up and was shaking, he was unarmed and they just shot him.” A second tweet continues, “eyewitness overheard police woman say ‘he looks nice, shoot him’ before he was shot to death by m16 from 2 meters away.”

The accounts of other deaths are equally disturbing (see TimesWarp 10-27-15), but the Times story includes none of them. It states that the victims this month died “in demonstrations and attacks,” taking the official Israeli line as fact.

On the other hand, the article refers frequently to Hamas in an effort to tie the group to the violence in Hebron. It makes no mention of several non-violent groups active in the city, such as Youth Against Settlements, Christian Peacemaker Teams, the International Solidarity Movement and the UN mandated Temporary International Presence in Hebron.

All of these organizations are avowedly non-violent; they observe and document violence against Palestinians. Yet another group, Breaking the Silence, was founded by Israeli soldiers who had served in Hebron and now collect and document Israeli army abuses. None of these organizations has a voice in the Times story.

Much of Hebron’s agony dates back to March, 1994, when an American-born settler, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 worshippers in the Ibahimi Mosque. Hadid mentions this as part of the historical record but omits the brutal Israeli crackdown that followed.

Rather than act to protect Palestinians after this attack, Israeli security forces went on to kill some 20 more Hebron residents during protests and to lock them down under a round-the-clock curfew. The government also closed once bustling Shuhada Street to all Palestinian traffic, welded shut Palestinian shops, turned the street over to settlers and divided the mosque into Jewish and Muslim sections.

This finds no clarification in the Times story, which refers vaguely to a “volatile mix of Palestinians and Jewish settlers.” Instead, the newspaper has adopted the official playbook of the occupiers: Stick to the narrative of Israeli victimhood, ignore countervailing fact, and whenever possible blame Hamas.

Barbara Erickson

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In The NY Times, Israeli Injuries Make Headlines, Palestinian Deaths Are Footnotes

These are the last moments of 17-year-old Hebron schoolgirl Dania Irsheid, as described by witnesses: Raising her hands above her head, terrified by the shouts of Israeli police, Dania cried out, “I don’t have a knife.” Immediately, one shot hit the ground between her legs; then a hail of bullets followed, and she fell.

A video shows her lying motionless, her white headscarf stained with blood, as police mill about but make no attempt to assist her. The terrible scene took place at a checkpoint near Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque on Sunday.

Her death merited a brief and anonymous mention in The New York Times. Far into a story about the changing tactics of Palestinian Authority security forces, we find this single sentence: “Elsewhere in the West Bank, an Israeli police officer fatally shot a 17-year-old Palestinian girl who tried to stab him, The Associated Press reported.”

Witnesses at the scene said she had no knife and had already passed through two metal detectors and revolving doors before opening her book bag for inspection at the mosque site. Israeli police, however, released a statement saying she was a “female Arab terrorist” and had been “neutralized.”

The Times says nothing of these contradictions, and it has maintained a resounding silence over other Palestinian deaths, including the shooting of two Hebron schoolboys who were killed last week, also in disturbing and disputed circumstances. (See TimesWarp 10-21-15).

On the other hand, the newspaper has taken pains to draw readers’ attention to an alleged stabbing attack on an Israeli citizen, which left the victim “moderately wounded” and resulted in the death of one Palestinian and the arrest of another.

The story appeared online five days ago, on Oct. 22, and was still present on the Middle East page through most of today’s online edition (it disappeared only after this post came out) under the headline “Jewish Man Stabbed in Israel by Palestinians as Violence Continues.” The article, touted so tenaciously on the Times website, is a mere 270 words and sketchily reported, but it outlasted other breaking news from the region with unusual longevity.

The death of Dania Irsheid merited no headline in the Times while the “moderate wounding” of an Israeli man was repeatedly flagged for online viewers. It is clear from this (and many other choices they make) that the newspaper’s editors have an agenda of their own, one that is inconsistent with accepted journalistic standards.

Israel is to be the perennial victim. Palestinians are to be the aggressors. Any deviation from this narrative causes dissonance at the Times.

Thus we find no stories about the harried and fearful lives of Palestinians in Hebron, even though the situation cries out for a close look at their ordeal. (Some 16 Palestinians have been killed in the city since the beginning of this month, out of 44 in the West Bank overall and 17 in Gaza, according to the International Middle East Media Center). Nor do we find any serious examination of the brutal occupation and colonization of Palestine that fuels the resistance.

We do, however, find a Times story about youthful Palestinian attackers inspired by social media, and we find an article focused on Palestinian songs with a nationalistic and sometimes violent bent. Both these articles appeared in print on page 1, and both conveniently fit the portrait of Palestinians as aggressors.

When evidence to the contrary cannot be ignored (as in the arson deaths of three Palestinian family members this summer), the Times turns to damage control. Thus, we have the newspaper attempting to undermine video evidence that shows Israeli security forces making false accusations or killing Palestinians who pose no threat.

This was the purpose of a story with the disingenuous headline, “Conflicting Accounts of Jerusalem Strife Surround a Wounded Arab Boy.” The point of this article is not what it purports to be, an examination of two different narratives, but an effort to debunk videos and witness accounts challenging the statements of Israeli security forces.

The Times devotes 1,600 words to telling us that Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abba and others got it wrong when they said Ahmad Manasra, 13, caught on video as he lay bleeding in Jerusalem, had been killed. He had only been wounded, the Times notes, and he is now being cared for in hospital.

The Times (and Israeli officials) are using this error to claim that Palestinian testimonies cannot be trusted. Some video evidence of Israeli misconduct is irrefutable, however, and monitoring groups outside of Palestine have vouched for them, calling for an end to the use of excessive force and extrajudicial executions.

Moreover, the video of Ahmad is shocking in its revelations of Israeli settler brutality even though the boy eventually survived. And beyond this, the Times story itself makes a significant error in claiming that the boy is shown in hospital being “spoon-fed by a nurse.”

In fact, it was an attorney, Tareq Barghout, who held the spoon, as the man later testified. Barghout also said Ahmad was shackled to the bed and suffered constant verbal abuse from hospital staff. The Times story, however, included none of this information.

Israeli officials made much of the error over Ahmad’s survival, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it “the new big lie,” and the Times obligingly followed suit. The overblown story is consistent with Times efforts to support the Israeli narrative and to discredit the testimony of Palestinians.

Meanwhile, three more died in Hebron on Monday, and the Times has once again failed to take notice. Palestinian deaths are—at best—footnotes in the newspaper of record while Israeli injuries are headlines. This is the unspoken but evident policy at The New York Times.

Barbara Erickson

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